Airbus could release a re-engined and stretched “A380neo” in the 2023 to 2025 timeframe, says Amedeo chief executive Mark Lapidus.
The timeline reflects the resources available at engine manufacturers to develop a new engine, as well as Airbus’ ability to work on an updated aircraft in addition to the two aircraft programmes – the A320neo and A350 – it already has in development.
“We’ll look for when the right engine technology is there, and if you look at everything the engine guys have on their plates today, they don’t really have much spare resources to dedicate to another,” says Chris Emerson, senior vice-president and head of marketing at Airbus, at an A380 investor event in New York on 12 June.
The current A380 comes with two engine options, from Engine Alliance and from Rolls-Royce.
Emerson says that Airbus can stretch the existing -800 aircraft, which would be the smallest of a potential A380 family.
His comments do not reflect a commitment from the European airframer to update the superjumbo.
“I don’t feel any rush for us to make a decision,” said Tom Williams, executive vice-president for programmes at Airbus, at a media event in Toulouse on the same day. “We still have plenty of A380 campaigns out there. We’d have to be convinced [an A380neo] would be something significantly better.”
Emirates, the largest operator of the aircraft with 48 A380s in its fleet, is pushing for a re-engined variant.
“There’s a distinct possibility that the A380neo, if built, would give us an improvement in economics of up to 10-12% so that is definitely worth having,” said Tim Clark, president of the Dubai-based carrier, earlier in June. “I’m hoping to move on that fairly soon.”
Emirates has firm orders for another 92 A380s, Flightglobal’s Ascend Online database shows.
Amedeo is not convinced on the need for a re-engined A380.
“It’s a huge investment for something that’s perfect already,” says Lapidus at the investor event.
Amedeo argues that that the existing model has the lowest per-seat costs of any aircraft on the market – and some that are still in development, including the A350-1000 – when the aircraft is operated in higher density configuration with upwards of 700 seats. Revenue and profits can be increased when the cabin is segmented with multiple classes of service, including first, business, premium economy, economy plus and economy.
A Boeing 777-300ER with 306 seats generates as much revenue as it costs to operate an A380, with the additional seating capacity on the superjumbo all generating profit, says Lapidus.
Whether there is demand for an A380neo – or even more of the current variant – outside Emirates remains to be seen. The aircraft has not secured a new customer in two years and Amedeo has yet to place the 20 aircraft it has on order.
LEK Consulting forecasts demand for another 300 A380s globally through 2024, says John Thomas, head of the firm’s aviation and travel practice. This is based on an analysis of routes where demand for capacity is sufficient and other constraints make the aircraft an ideal option.
The demand is in addition to the firm orders that Airbus has on its books, which total 192 aircraft according to Ascend.
“This aircraft is very capable,” says Thomas. “Where we see the greatest opportunity going forward is in the 3,000nm [5,556km] to 6,000nm range where it only has an about 3% market share now.”
Another area of potential demand is high-density long-haul with carriers such as Air Transat or Norwegian, he adds.
Lapidus is confident. “We will expand and broaden the base for this aircraft and it will happen this year,” he says.